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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s draw with Athletic

The talking points from the final game of Real Madrid’s 2022/23 season.

Real Madrid CF v Athletic Club - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid brought their 2022/23 campaign to an end with a 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Club, but most fans will remember this game as the day when Karim Benzema left the club, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation as he left the pitch. Asensio got an ovation too and the farewells feature in the talking points for the game. So, for the final time this season, here comes three answers and three questions.

Three answers

1. How emotional would the Benzema ovation be?

With the statement released by the club on Sunday morning, this Real Madrid vs Athletic Club suddenly took on a whole other meaning. It suddenly become Benzema’s final game for the club. So, what would that be like? Well, the last-minute nature of the announcement meant there wasn’t much time to plan any great gesture, but the fans cheered Benzema’s name extra loud when it was read out and his first involvements in the game too. Then, in the second half, he signed off his Real Madrid career in the best way possible, converting a penalty kick and then being substituted off to a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd moments later. It was a mic drop kind of farewell from the No.9.

2. Would Vinícius be rusty or straight back on it?

This was Vinícius’ first game since the events at Mestalla, meaning he hadn’t played in 14 days. That’s not usual for Vinícius, who rarely misses a minute never mind multiple fixtures in a row. So, how would he look? You knew he’d be motivated, but would he be rusty? Well, he lost the ball with his first few touches in the match. But, in the 13th minute, he performed his trademark swivel and was off to the races down the touchline, creating Los Blancos’ first chance of the game. From there, the forward was his usual self and had a typical Vini game, dribbling past defenders, creating chances and being fouled, a lot.

3. How would Rüdiger vs Iñaki, the battle of the speedsters go?

Just behind Vinícius was a duel of two of the fastest sprinters in all of LaLiga, as Antonio Rüdiger played left-back and as Iñaki Williams started on Athletic’s right. With Rüdiger’s top speed this year having been measured at 36.7 km/h and with Williams hitting 35.5 km/h, this had the makings of an epic duel, especially if Athletic could create a few counter attacks. In the end, Rüdiger won his first few battles with the winger, who moved more central and had more joy away from the German. Ultimately, this wasn’t quite the battle we thought it might be.

Three questions

1. How much more valuable is second place than third?

This draw opened the door for Atlético Madrid to sneak second place, but a late Villarreal equaliser in their game meant that the Rojiblancos drew 2-2 and that Real Madrid hold on to the runners-up spot. While most fans won’t care, it does also brings a financial reward. How much exactly? Well, only 25% of the audiovisual money that LaLiga distributes among the clubs is based on the final position in the league ranking, with 50% distributed completely equally among all 20 clubs and with the final 25% distributed based on a term called “social implementation”, basically meaning the bigger clubs get more than the smaller clubs. MARCA broke down the 25% based on sporting performance and calculated that the difference between second place and third place this year should be an extra €7m. Thanks to a 92nd-minute goal from Villarreal youngster Jorge Pascual, Real Madrid have kept that extra €7m. That’s not nothing.

2. Was this Vinícius’ last game in the No.20 shirt?

With Benzema leaving, Vinícius is now even more so the franchise player at Real Madrid. So, might it be time for the Brazilian to take a new shirt number? As much as the forward has incorporated the No.20 into his branding over the past year, the No.7, No.9 and No.11 shirts are all now available. If there’s a time to move into one of those numbers, and to make it his for the next decade, it’s this summer.

3. Who else played their final game for the club today?

We’ve already had four farewell announcements this weekend, most notably for Benzema but also for Asensio, Mariano and Hazard. They each got their moment in the limelight, even Hazard and Mariano after full-time. But, were there any other players out there playing their final game for the club today? Nacho? Ceballos? Someone less expected? We’ll surely soon find as the 2022/23 season is now in the books for Real Madrid, and it’s time for what is sure to be a lively summer in terms of transfers.

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